In Karin Slaughter’s newest book, “Pieces of Her,” life is quiet for Andrea in the small town of Belle Isle, Georgia. Its beautiful beaches attract tourists and snowbirds. Andrea lives with her mother, a speech pathologist.
Nearing 30, Andrea struggles with finances and self esteem after an unsuccessful stint in New York that involved several low-paying jobs. She now works odd hours as a dispatcher for the police department in Belle Isle and is burdened with a large college debt, loans from a college degree she never completed thanks to a romance turned sour.
Andrea’s life changes in an instant during an innocuous lunch with her mother. A gunman fires into the small lunch crowd, killing the couple with whom Andrea and her mother had been conversing. The gunman trains his sights on Andrea who is next in the line of fire. Instantly, Laura, Andrea’s mother, steps up to the gunman and kills him with the hunting knife that he pulled when he ran out of bullets. Laura’s reaction seems deliberate, that of a well-trained, martial-arts expert.
Following a brief police investigation, Laura and Andrea return home where Laura insists that Andrea leave for her father’s home immediately, but before Andrea does an intruder confronts Laura. When the intruder begins to torture Laura, Andrea kills him.
Laura demands that Andrea drive to a northern state. She gives Andrea instructions that include a key for access to a storage unit that contains a car, emergency supplies, and a quarter of a million dollars in cash. Andrea is confronted with the obvious fact that her mother is not who she says she is.
So begins Andrea’s long journey during which she meets an officer from a witness protection program, her mother’s former cohorts from a crime that rocked the nation, and a famous ballerina who raised Andrea the first two years of her life. As the book jacket questions, is her mother a hero, a liar, a killer or all three?
Regardless, Andrea realizes she has strengths that she thought she had lost: confidence, an ability to make decisions, an interest in life, a desire to do good.
“Pieces of Her” is a fiction thriller that will keep the reader’s attention throughout. Those old enough to remember the Patty Hearst kidnaping will be alert to the similarities of that crime.
Slaughter’s previous novels, “The Good Daughter” and “Cop Town,” are being adapted for film and television. I believe “Pieces of Her” will receive the same treatment.